Review: Mesarthim – Isolate
After going through my album history from earlier this year to commence a sort of sketchy end-of-year recap, I came across this Mesarthim album from July which I had almost forgotten about altogether. After rechecking the tags, what piqued my interest? Black metal? Sure, I enjoy black metal. Horsehead nebula cover art? Space is one of my interests. Australian band? I happen to be fluent in bogan. Atmosphere? I guess we all need atmosphere, for uhhh… oxygen… Alright, let’s revisit this already.
Mesarthim appear to be a 2 piece band from somewhere in Australia, and as you can see, the info on their Encyclopaedia Metallum page is vague and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do a door-knock to find out more. While there may only be a few people down here, I don’t have that kinda disposable time or patience. The band’s debut album of six tracks clocks in at just over 43 minutes and is aptly titled Isolate. I’m in no way well-versed on the intricacies of space-themed atmospheric black metal. So if you’re looking for a review that compares this album to others based upon the finer details of the craft, then it would be best for you pick up your fucking sirium-encrusted pince-nez, being sure to only grab it holding your microfibre cloth and head back to your dark room (No, not that one! The one with the star-ceiling) to continue playing Ethereal Space Daleks IV: Chronicles of the Ethereal Space Daleks with the rest of your guild. What I will be able to do however, is offer an insight into this release from an outsider’s perspective, an outsider who possesses more than just a passing interest, that is.
Growing up listening almost exclusively to rock, punk and metal gave me a strong aversion to electronic music. Hell, I couldn’t even handle a band using keyboards for backing. I dismissed the entirety of what I’d deemed ‘inorganic’ music for the longest time, but as I’ve grown older I’ve
become less vigilant opened my mind to electronic music and even begrudgingly accepted it ‘mingling’ with my sacred metal. These days, I don’t have any real qualms with such things. I definitely would not have enjoyed listening to something like Isolate a decade ago. The prominence of the layered keys and synth sounds would have been an immediate deal-breaker. Just to prove to you that I am not impaired by any lingering bias, I remind you that I reviewed the latest Dan Terminus album for this very site earlier in the year, and that album was straight from Synthtopia.
From the get-go, the listener is greeted with slow chordal riffs that are accompanied by a strata of synth that comes in slowly building waves. The harsh vocals comprised of that ever-so-familiar black metal tone give you that darkened vibe without the usual blasphemous undercurrent. The production seems to favour the atmospheric elements and puts them right up front in the mix, with the vocals and guitar rhythms casually lurking in the background. The percussion shifts between a balance of rolling double-bass with restraint on the snare and downplayed beats that wouldn’t be out of place on a rock track. If you enjoy what you hear so far, this album will most likely be something you should invest in as it has a somewhat homogenous nature, and you’ll get good value from your $1.
However, for me it lacked the punch required to really hammer home any kind of lasting impression. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where this album succeeds, such as my pick of the tracks ‘Abyss’ (#4), but for the most part it felt a little lacking. Which is a shame, as I had heard some hype regarding this album and the concept was appealing. I think if you’re going to have the guitars kicked back a gear you really need something more in terms of appeal. Some of the keys just sound like someone invited The Algorithm over to guest spot and they all ended up eating some benzo’s, having a great time and recording the result. I don’t want to be too harsh as I think this is an ambitious step to take for your debut album, and others seem to enjoy it, which is great but I think if some more texture was added (e.g. as found on A Diadem Of Dead Stars‘ recent albums) this really could have been a stellar (couldn’t resist) debut.
Give Isolate a listen and tell me how wrong I am in the comments below.